This Saturday, the 91st Annual National Cherry Festival kicks off in Traverse City. We sat down with the festival’s biggest cheerleader, the executive director and alumna Kat Paye ‘14, to learn more about her nearly 25 year journey with the festival. Read her alumni success story below.
Tell us about yourself!
I have lived in TC since I was six years old. I got involved with the National Cherry Festival at a young age as a volunteer in the wheelchair mile event. As an eight year old, I got the important job of folding t-shirts, putting stickers on boxes and pinning tags on the race participants. By the time I was 16, I had the starting gun in my hand and I was in charge of actually starting the race. My good friend Jeff, a quadriplegic who managed the event, made this possible for me. Jeff was instrumental in keeping me involved in the festival. By the time I was 20, I was the youngest board member. I was the event director and managed six events in just a few short years. Then, I left my volunteer board position and joined the festival staff. I was the operations and volunteer manager role for five years and last year, I was named the executive director of the National Cherry Festival!
The Executive Director of the National Cherry Festival seems like an awesome job! What do you do in a nutshell?
As an executive director, I am the festival’s biggest cheerleader. I am also doing strategic planning, looking at the five and ten-year plans and seeing where are we headed. I manage staff and budgets. We have 150 events in eight days. The events range from kids events to senior events, air shows, concerts, parades, carnivals, diaper derby, toddler trot, pit-spit contents, pie eating, and song competitions. Those eight days are the most fun, and exciting days of my year!
Is this your dream job?
Absolutely! My dream job was to work for the festival and I did that. Then my dream job was to become the executive director. When I got my new role, I was ecstatic!
What is your biggest accomplishment?
Being the executive director is my biggest accomplishment right now. In my last role, one of the biggest accomplishments for the festival was when we won the International Festival & Events Association’s award for the ‘Emergency Preparedness & Risk Management Plan.’
How do you feel Davenport played a role in your success?
I wanted to go back and finish my degree. I met with the campus director in Traverse City, Alyssa Irani. She helped me figure everything out. DU had night and weekend classes that fit my schedule. I also enjoyed the small class sizes that helped me get the personal attention I needed. I graduated in 2014 with a degree in business. Alyssa was the reason why I had such a great experience at DU.
What do you do when you are not working?
I love events! My husband and I love volunteering at local community events. My husband and I joke saying that he gave me a ring and I gave him a radio. He is my right –hand man.
Last question, do you love cherries?
I love cherries! Cherry-pie is a food group for me! I own everything cherry related. I have a cherry-themed kitchen!